Photos from Chris Conte's 2016 campaign.
Another member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' resurgent 2016 defense has chosen to return to the team rather than test free agency. Safety Chris Conte, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, instead reached agreement prior to that deadline on a new two-year deal.
This marks the third year in a row in which Conte has signed with the Buccaneers in March. He played the 2015 and 2016 seasons on consecutive one-year contracts.
Conte, a former third-round pick who spent his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears, has been a starter for most of his two years in Tampa. During that span he has played in 28 games and made 24 starts, racking up 142 tackles, four interceptions, 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Conte's two interceptions in 2016 were among the Bucs' most important defensive plays of the year. The first was a 20-yard pick-six against his former team that opened the scoring in a 36-10 rout in Week 10. A week later in Kansas City, Conte's fourth-quarter interception in the end zone and subsequent return to midfield was the pivotal play in a 19-17 upset at Arrowhead Stadium.
Conte missed two games due to injury in the weeks that followed, and during his absence Keith Tandy made the most of his chance to start with a string of big plays. Tandy would hold onto the starting job even after Conte's return from injury, but the Buccaneers still clearly need depth and starting options in the defensive backfield. Fellow starting safety Bradley McDougald is an unrestricted free agent and 2016 rookie Ryan Smith is converting from safety back to his natural position of cornerback.
Conte was a starter for most of his four seasons in Chicago, as well. During that time he appeared in 57 games with 52 starts and contributed nine interceptions. Overall, his career NFL totals include 13 interceptions, 32 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and 373 tackles. Conte is one of only three safeties, joining Reggie Nelson and Glover Quin, who have recorded at least two interceptions in each of the last five seasons.